Could Female Mice Be the Reason for Increased Fertility in Male Mice?

Author:  Minnie Rai
Institution:  University of Western Ontairo

Have you ever caught yourself singing Bobby Vinton's classic, Mr. Lonely? If so, maybe you should consider some companionship – some female companionship that is. It might have more benefits than one might think, such as improving male fertility. A study performed at the University of Pennsylvania set out to understand the impact female mice had on the production of sperm cells in male mice.

But how can the presence of a female mouse improve the sperm levels in a male mouse? Head researcher, Ralph Brinster and his team from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine proposed that females had an effect on the males at a cellular level. It is thought that the presence of the female mice triggered a response in the brains of the males, which activated their nervous systems and stimulated the release of hormones. This ultimately influenced the environment in which the sperm cells developed. In other words, Dr. Brinster and his team determined that the female mice somehow modified the male's physiology and psychology, in turn increasing their fertility levels.

The experiment involved housing male mice either with or without female mice for a period ranging from 16-32 months. The results showed that the mice living with their female counterparts did not show a drop in fertility. On the other hand, those mice living alone showed a decrease in fertility measures. It is yet to be determined whether or not this cellular occurrence of the co-habiting mice sexes is present in other species, such as humans.

Dr. Brinster points out that this type of research can potentially be applied to other species: "If it turns out that this reproductive effect is mimicked in other species, for example, livestock animals that affect food production, then a 20 percent increase in male fertility could mean an extension of the male reproductive life span of years."

This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Robert J. Kleberg Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation at the School of Vertinary Medicine at Penn, department of Animal Biology.

Written by Minnie Rai

Edited by: Jeffrey Kost

Published by: Hoi See Tsao